Frameworks of Contemporary Practice

The purpose of this course is to:
1. Examine architecture through the lenses of the Discipline, Profession and Practice — the issues of knowledge domains, development of technique and technology; ethics, responsibility and regulation; value and innovation as they relate to different social, economic and political contexts.
2. Explore the range of contemporary and emergent practices as they relate to the re-framing of our participation in rapidly changing social, political, economic, cultural, technological and material landscapes;
3. Develop analytic frameworks and tools for critically examining different approaches to and modes of practice, including their respective organization, operations and business models;
4. Challenge students to think about their present and future participation in practice, and to assist in their visualization of possibilities.

There was in, the mythical past, a moment when the discipline, profession and practice of architecture could have been spoken of almost interchangeably and as one thing. But in the present time, these three domains, while sharing substantive overlap, can be seen as constituted on their own terms. A number of controversies (some productive, others not) arise from a misunderstanding about the overlap and tensions between these domains. And so, a discussion about contemporary practice begins with a sorting out of historic and present situations that drive the relationships between them.

We also need to be mindful of the ever-increasing scope and scale of work arising from the great issues of our time, such as population growth, globalization, climate change, new technologies, and their impacts. Taking on issues of such breadth and complexity, whether in the academy or in practice, requires exceptional skill and discipline in framing subject matter, problems, etc. in ways that can be appropriately calibrated for productive undertaking. The coincident need for greater collaboration across disciplinary lines, as well as the need for assimilation and integration of knowledge presents process and organizational challenges not commonly faced in previous times.

The practice of design has never been richer in possibilities, but the best opportunities increasingly require significant generative capabilities on the part of the designer to visualize, postulate and propose ways to create value, address issues and solve problems. On the other hand, the provision of design services (which in every instance may not be the objective of practice) has emerged as a highly diverse constellation of players, ranging from small, local practices to global service/delivery platforms. A critical understanding of this complex universe and how one participates in it are important aspects of this seminar.

Course format: Interactive lectures; workshop with guest faculty; team exercises and discussion.
Requirements: Consistent class attendance and engagement; satisfactory completion of assignments (some of which will be performed in small teams); term project and final presentation.

Prerequisites: For MArch I and MLA I students, prior completion of the core practice course is required for enrollment in this seminar. No pre-requisites for MArch II, MLA II, MAUD, MDes and DDes candidates. Prior work experience is recommended.